The St. Vincent High School baseball team has already picked off its first opponent.
“One of our strengths will be holding base runners and using new pick-off plays,” said new St. Vincent coach Stan Switala. That strategy paid off in the Mustangs’ first game, an 8-7 win over Terra Linda. Not only did the Mustangs stymie the Terra Linda running game by holding runners close to the bases, but they came up with a big pick-off following a lead-off double late in the game.
Of course, it helps if you can stop runners from getting on base in the first place, and Switala believes the Mustangs have the pitching and defense to limit the number of opposing base runners.
Although St. Vincent gave up 10 hits to Division 3 Terra Linda, the Mustangs have the arms for a successful season. The plan is to use senior Ethan Rapoport and sophomore Gino Antonini as alternating starters, and then go to junior Trent Free and senior Reno Nalducci to finish things.
“The big thing for us is to throw first-pitch strikes,” said Switala. “If we do that, we will be very difficult to beat.”
While first-pitch strikes are crucial, the Mustang moundsmen aren’t required to strike out every opposition batter because they will be backed by a solid defense, especially in the infield.
With Antonini at first base, Free at third base and Reno Nalducci and his freshman brother, Ryan, in the middle (Reno at short and Ryan at second), the Mustangs have a solid crops of gloves to support their pitchers. AJ Fetter provides a solid backup at third base when the Mustangs are forced to change things around to accommodate whoever is on the mound.
Switala said the outfield is still a work in progress.
Sophomore Andrew Kohler will be in center field, with Matt Pierson, Jack Belway, Conrad Smith and Wright alternating at the corner spots.
Joe Berniklau, a 6-foot, 3-inch senior, is back out for baseball after not playing for a couple of seasons, and he has shown the potential for good power.
Sophomore Coleton Cristiani will step in as catcher.
If the opening game is any indication, St. Vincent will score runs.
“I’m very impressed with the way the players swing the bats,” said Switala. “They faced Terra Linda’s top pitcher and didn’t back down.”
Switala said Reno Nalducci and Antonini should be among the top hitters in the North Central League II. Add in Rapoport and Cristiani, and the Mustangs have the potential to score runs in a hurry and in bunches.
St. Vincent’s goal is big, but simple.
“We want to win the North Coast Section Division 5 championship. That will be our goal every year,” Switala said.
He added that it is a realistic goal this year.
“We have some really good kids who are looking to improve their baseball knowledge and become better baseball players,” he said. “They are learning a new system, and they are buying into it.”
St. Vincent had a strong turnout for baseball with 31 players combined on the varsity and junior varsity teams. The JV team is coached by Spencer Finkbohner, helped by former St. Vincent and Sonoma State player Robbie White.